In 2002 my family and I were in Malta and boarded a rickety, untrustworthy looking boat, captained by an old Maltese man with a flat cap and cigarette. He couldn’t speak a word of English. We sailed from between Malta’s mainland and, and docked at an area called the Blue Lagoon. It was exactly that. The only colours there were blue and white sand. At the age of 6, I remember seeing my dad snorkel in the clear water, and my mum telling me if I was as tall as her I would be able to walk from one island to the other, as the water was so shallow. The island was deserted, except for a handful of men at the small dock. Complete privacy and complete solitude. My brother, who was three at the time, and I paddled and made sand castles with the bucket and spade we had brought with us from the mainland. The rocks sticking out of the sea were like enormous sand castles. Looking back, perhaps they were made of sandstone. We lounged on the beach for hours. We returned to Malta three times, every other year, until 2006, and each time we visited our private , and it remained unchanged.
Life got in the way after that. In 2009, my mum gave birth to my baby brother, Oscar, and money was too tight to go abroad. I never forgot Malta. I longed to return more than anything. In 2014, my family finally decided to do just that. I was overjoyed and couldn’t wait to show the new addition to the family our special place.
Malta had not changed. The roads were the same, the weather and the colour of the ocean the same. What had changed was the level of tourism. We went back to the hotel we used to stay in each year to find it almost desolate. A place I made friends with, the place my brother and I learnt to swim, the kids club I used to go to, it had all changed. The hotel used to be full of families with young children. Now, it was more of cheap hotel for older people. It was dark.
At least the Blue Lagoon would still be there, I promised myself. It was still there, of course, but it too had changed. My first suspicion arose when we boarded a shiny, white speed boat along with five other families. The boat was driven by a young man with a t-shirt that said ‘Blue Lagoon Tours’ on the front. On the ride to the Lagoon, he sped us along, trying to impress us with his spins and speed. It was great, but not like the nervous excitement provided by the old man and his cigarette.
When we docked I was shocked. About five other boats were in the dock. Peddle boats in the sea. We were greeted by a man telling us it was tento hire a sun bed for the day. As we climbed the hill before descending to the lagoon, I noticed a row of stalls selling rubber-rings, ice creams, buckets and spades; everything needed for a beach day. We’d brought our lunch with us as we were not expecting any chance to buy food.
Down on the beach, it really hit me. There was no place to sit as the tiny beach was covered in sun beds, most of them with people on. Kids screamed, parents smoked. Where was my haven? The beauty was still there, but it was hidden by these new, additions. I know we were tourists ourselves, but there was something in the fact that this was my special place – how dare they come here?
The saving grace was the ocean. My two brothers and I played around and went. It was our first family holiday with Oscar, so that was special. I also tried walking to the other island, and could do so without my head going under the water. It was strange to think that last time I was here I was the age of my baby brother. I wonder what his memories of it will be when he is my age. I hope he remembers the beauty, and not the tourists.
Written for my Travel and Journalistic Writing module at uni